Fine particulate matter from traffic may influence birth weight

Jun 25, 2007

After the scientists had investigated the effects of the exposure of adults and children to particulate matter in the past, they are now first focussing on the risks to unborn life in this recent study. This is the continuation of the GSF’s successful cooperation with the internationally renowned French research institution, with the common objective of tracing the causes of environment-related health disorders.

For the study which has now been published online, data from the cohort study LISA were used, in which the influence of living conditions and behaviours on the development of the immune system and allergies is studied.

1016 mothers and their children born in Munich between 1998 and 1999 were studied. All women included in the study had not moved out during the pregnancy. On the basis of a measuring campaign at 40 locations in the city of Munich, the concentrations of traffic-related atmospheric pollutants during pregnancy, including fine particulate matter (those with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, PM2,5), could be modelled at the home address of the pregnant women. The model took into account the distance of each home from streets, the population density near the home as well as the fluctuations in the concentration of the air pollutants over time during the pregnancies.

Using a detailed questionnaire, the study authors could disentangle the influence of air pollutants from that of other factors known to influence birth weight. In particular, maternal smoking, the height and weight of the mother before pregnancy, the educational level of the mothers as well as the duration of the pregnancy and the child’s gender could be controlled for.

The proportion of newborns with a birth weight below 3,000 grams increased with increasing concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2,5) during pregnancy. A similar association was observed between the absorbance of fine particulate matter and birth weight. The absorbance of particulate matter is considered to be a marker of the particles originating from traffic, and in particular from diesel vehicles.

Earlier American Studies had already suggested that fine particulate matter might influence the birth weight. This recent study is the first study from Germany and Western Europe and also the first one to suggest so clearly that traffic-related air pollutants have an influence.

The biological mechanisms which could explain the influence of air pollutants on the growth of the unborn child are not known as yet. Fine particulate matter consists of hundreds of chemical substances. It is conceivable that a minor fraction of the fine particulate matter reaches the blood through the lungs and influences the placenta or other organs which are responsible for regulating the growth of the foetus. Studies from the US and Poland have for example shown that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), which are produced during incomplete combustion processes, can reach the foetus and influence its growth.

Source: National Research Center for Environment and Health

Explore further: U.S. suffers from lifespan inequality, says researcher

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Taking NASA-USGS's Landsat 8 to the beach

Jul 14, 2014

Some things go swimmingly with a summer trip to the beach – sunscreen, mystery novels, cold beverages and sandcastles. Other things – like aquatic algae – are best avoided.

Device eliminates 93 percent of lawnmower pollutant

Jul 07, 2014

A team of University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering students have won an EPA student design contest for a device they created that curbs harmful pollutant emitted from lawnmowers by ...

Evidence confirms combustion theory

Jul 01, 2014

(Phys.org) —Researchers at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab) and the University of Hawaii have uncovered the first step in the process that transforms gas-phase molecules ...

Recommended for you

U.S. suffers from lifespan inequality, says researcher

3 minutes ago

The United States has done worse than other wealthy countries at improving health for working-age adults while it has performed about the same in reducing mortality at ages over 65, according to new Stanford ...

Teen vaccinations up but HPV coverage remains low overall

13 hours ago

(HealthDay)—From 2012 to 2013, coverage for adolescents aged 13 to 17 years increased for all routinely recommended vaccinations. Increases ranged from 1.4 percentage points for at least one tetanus toxoid, ...

User comments : 0